While tracking a pride of lions through the Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa, local guide Lucien Beaumont witnessed a pretty incredible scene. The 13 lionesses and four lions of the so-called 'Mhangeni pride' had stumbled upon a lone porcupine, and closed in on what they assumed to be some relatively easy prey. As Beaumont notes on his blog, "This is not an ideal place to be, especially if you feature on the menu of a lion!"
But all was not lost for our prickly little friend, because porcupines are practically built for encounters such as this. Porcupines have short, stumpy tails tipped with hollow 'rattle quills' that produce a loud, hissing noise when the animal shakes its backside. The noise is supposed to confuse and distract a porcupine's predators long enough for it to shuffle away, but if that doesn't work, it's time for Plan B. As you can see in the video above, Plan B involves manoeuvring that impressive array of quills close enough that they'll get caught up in skin and fur of whatever is trying to eat you, causing them a whole lot more pain that it does you.
"The quills have micro-barbs, which hook into the face or paws of a predator that may get too close. The quills simply pull out of the porcupines skin without causing damage to the prickly creature," Beaumont writes at his blog. "The predator then has to deal with a painful quill. The downside of this is that there is a chance of the quill breaking off in the skin and this can cause a major infection. The porcupine simply re-grows any lost quills – the quills are a type of fused hair."
Fortunately for the porcupine, Plan B was super-effective, and the lions lost interest and wandered off. If only all of life's problems could be solved by backing awkwardly into them.